Curiosity first tried out its laser on this innocent rock, which Tweeted
the attack live. The rover's laser, ChemCam
, is designed to superheat samples into a plasma and detect their contents with a sensitive spectrograph. For five nanoseconds, the laser directs the energy of a million light bulbs into the area the size of a pinhead.
It's the workhorse of the mission, and can do preliminary research to help determine which other instruments, like the drill, should look at rocks in greater detail.